By Owen Ryan
IT now seems almost certain that no school in Shannon will be divested from the Catholic Church, as the Bishop of Killaloe, Kieran O’Reilly has ruled out making any change.
In April of last year, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn published the results of primary school patronage surveys from 38 towns across the country, Shannon being the only place in Clare that was included.
The report, which followed that survey, recommended that the Bishop of Killaloe be asked to consider options that would provide accommodation for an Educate Together school locally.
It claimed that its survey had established sufficient demand for such a school.
However, Shannon parish priest Fr Tom Ryan told The Clare Champion that the bishop feels that any change is unnecessary, after consultation with the community.
“The bishop, as patron, was asked to report to the minister by the end of October and he reported that after extensive consultation with the schools in Newmarket and Shannon there was an overwhelming endorsement of Catholic education from parents, staff and parents associations and he is not in a position to divest any schools as requested by the Minister at the present time,” he said.
Parents of 1,596 children in the Shannon area responded to the survey and the report, which followed, found that, “With regard to the issue of a wider choice of patronage in the area 234 of the 1,289 preferences stated they would welcome a wider choice of patronage, while 154 stated that they would avail of that choice. Of these, 154 there were 37 pre-school children and 117 school-going children. Of these, 117 there are 63 in junior infants to second class, while the remainder are in the senior class group of third class to sixth class.”
Of those who favoured a change in patronage, the most popular alternative was Educate Together.
Ironically, given that all the schools in Shannon are co-ed, the report said “253 stated that they would like to see the current schools restructured as they would prefer co-educational to single sex education.”
The conclusions section of the report said that there was enough interest to sustain a school under different patronage. It said the data “indicates a long term projected size of up to one half of a single stream school (comprising of four classrooms) being required to accommodate such a level of demand in the medium to long term. Detailed examination of the reorganisation of the schools in the town and their possible reconfiguration could result in a building being freed up for a new patron.
“The main patron (Catholic bishop) should now be asked to consider re-configuration options that would provide accommodation for an Educate Together (English language, multi-denominational school) in the area. Taking account of likely long-term requirements, accommodation options for a full stream of provision should be considered.”
Minister Quinn has said that changes in society have put school patronage on the agenda. Last year he said; “Ireland has changed, demographically and socially. We now have a much more diverse population than we had even two decades ago. In addition, many people’s views about the place of religion in society and in their own lives have undergone profound change.
This has lead to an increased demand for new forms of multi-denominational and non-denominational schooling, as well as increased demand for Irish language schooling.
“This increased demand calls for a plan for the future which will create a better match between the type of school provision available and the make-up of the communities they serve.”